Towards a century at the heart of Connacht rugby

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COVID-19: Where are we, when will this end and what do we have to do?

David Bouchier-Hayes

Back in February I wrote about my own personal experience having received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, and the positive impact that it had on me personally. I am delighted to be able to say that many club members (although obviously not all) have now also been vaccinated.

During this time I also became a vaccinator myself and have vaccinated approximately 75 people. I would have to say that it has been one of the most rewarding things that I have done in the 30 years that I have been a doctor.

In terms of the COVID-19 pandemic overall, I thought I would take the opportunity to give you my own thoughts from a medical point of view and discuss briefly what we has individuals and as a club can continue to do to improve the situation.

The virus has inevitably mutated into a more transmissible variant (“Delta”) and this is most likely not the last variant that we will see.  The upshot is that infection rates remain extremely high. This tends to be in the younger age group of 15-29 years of age, mainly because this group are only partly vaccinated as of yet. Although hospitalisations have been markedly reduced, we are still seeing quite a significant number of people being admitted to hospital and now we are starting to see young men and women in their 20s very unwell in the intensive care unit.  

So, whilst we are going in the right direction and are coming into the end game of this bizarre and challenging situation, the virus can still cause major disruption.  With this in mind, I would encourage every member of the club, from teenagers up to the oldest members, to get themselves vaccinated as soon as possible.

I know there have been concerns about the various vaccines that have been amplified incorrectly on social media. However, looking at the proper scientific data shows the incidence of severe side effects from any of the vaccines is extremely rare and much less than the risk of acute COVID, or more worryingly, Long COVID which we know very little about as of yet.

This remains an illness that you do not want to get, no matter what age you are, with some recent work showing that it may she calls a destruction of brain tissue in a significant number of people, which highlights the seriousness of the situation. 

All adult club members are now in a position to be able to register for vaccination, and indeed my own local pharmacist in Roscam just received a supply of single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine which he was giving to 3 young men in the short time that I was in his premises yesterday. I would encourage people to also look at this route of utilising the pharmacists. 

As I said, the side effect profile for severe side effects is extremely rare and I myself have given over 75 people two doses of vaccine which I think shows the level of trust that I have personally in the vaccines, and that almost all of my medical colleagues do as well.

The only way to beat this virus and return to normality is via vaccination.  By being vaccinated you are protecting not only yourself but also those around you, including those who for other reasons cannot be vaccinated.  

One of the amazing aspects of rugby is team work, where people are willing to put themselves in physical danger for the betterment of the team overall.  If you are willing to put body on the line for your teammates on the rugby field, I think that same sense of team work and interest in the betterment of others will help you to decide that vaccination is in not only your best interest, but the team and the community’s best interest too.

I would also point out that we need to remain vigilant in terms of minimisation of social and physical contact, maintaining social distancing, mask wearing where necessary, not sharing car journeys with each other unless everyone is vaccinated, not sharing equipment and sticking to pods of 15 (or the appropriate number) in training, and filling out the fitness to play declaration on every occasion throughout all levels of the club.  

One positive case has the possibility of taking out 15 players for 2 weeks, not only from training and playing but also from work and all other social contact. We all have a responsibility to each other and to the club in general to minimise the risks of any of us transmitting the virus if we are positive.

As I said previously in February, vaccines are the way out of this intolerable situation we are in and I am delighted that this prediction is coming true.  We are in a much better position than we were at at almost any stage over the last 18 months, and there is certainly hope not just on the horizon, but much closer than that.  

I would encourage every club member for the sake of themselves, an their teammates, the club and the community in general to get themselves vaccinated as quickly as possible, to believe in fact and hard science, and to put your faith in what to see around you in terms of how effective the vaccines have been to date. By pulling together and looking after each other, we will see this out until the end and return to a significant sense of normality over the next couple of months.

I would like to applaud everyone for the phenomenal efforts that they have put in over the last 18 months, especially the efforts of those who stepped forward to volunteer as COVID compliance officers, as well as the club officers who have always taken this situation very seriously, and have been open to listening to my suggestions and advice.

I think all of us deserve an evening of celebration sometime in the future and I would be very hopeful that that will be in the next couple of months.

Best of luck to everyone in this new season and remember, PLEASE GET VACCINATED!

Prof. David Bouchier-Hayes  (DBH)
Club COVID Safety Officer and Medical Supervisor

Gordon Darcy Charity Cycle visits Galwegians

Ex international Gordon Darcy cycled into Crowley Park as part of his 8560km fundraiser for the amazing Barretstown Charity for sick children and families.

Thanks to all who turned up, Darce visited 9 clubs and was hugely impressed with his welcome in Crowley Park.

See the pictures below. Sincere thanks the Mike Shaughnessy Photography for these.

Well done President Erc Dunne for the organisation and for stepping aside to make U13 Jack Farrell special president for the day. Jack hugely impressed all including Darce himself as can be seen by this tweet.

Well done all.

Ready for action at Glenina. Photo courtesy of Mike Shaughnessy
President for a day. Photo courtesy of Mike Shaughnessy
Presidential address to club. Photo courtesy of Mike Shaughnessy
Deposed President and his successor with Gordon Darcy. Photo courtesy of Mike Shaughnessy
Team Darcy – Galwegians. Photo courtesy of Mike Shaughnessy
Assembled cyclists. Photo courtesy of Mike Shaughnessy
Irish Rugby Legend Gordon Darcy is taking on a phenomenal 850km cycling challenge around Ireland to raise money for Barretstown Children’s Charity. Gordon stopped off at alwegians RFC’s clubhouse at Glenia on Thursday morning to the welcome of Galwegians players and officials. Gordon is pictured leaving Galwegians RFC with Colm O’donnellan, Colm O’Boyle, Frank Killeen and James and Aoibhe Keane. Photo courtesy of Mike Shaughnessy

Meet Head Coach Ja Naughton

Galwegians have confirmed the appointment of Jarleth Naughton as Head Coach of the Men’s Senior Team. It follows the recent departure of Andrew Browne to the Connacht Academy. A Galway city native, we caught up with ‘Ja’ to ask him about his career to date.

1. When did you join and start playing for Wegians?

I started with Wegians when I was thirteen with the U14s under Noel ‘Tully’ Murtagh and Stephanie Dowling Folan

2. What Position did you play?

Front-row, Loose head prop. I tried hooker in my first year of senior rugby for a couple of games, but almost all my career has been wearing the no. 1 jersey.

3. Which years were you club captain?

I was made captain for the 2014/15 season, a memorable year when we gained promotion to AIL Division 1A, and held the role until I finished playing rugby in 2016.

4. When did you start coaching and which team?

I started coaching in the Connacht Summer Camps and with GMIT for a season and I also did a season with NUIG u20s while I was still playing.

After I finished playing, I was made head coach of the NUIG J1 team for 2 seasons and I was also head coach of the Connacht Women for 2 season during this time. 

I then returned to Wegians and have been part of the coaching team here for 3 seasons now. 

5. Your reaction to being appointed Senior Men’s Head Coach?

It’s a great honour being asked to take the reins, and it’s even more special leading in to our 100th year anniversary.

6. What are your hopes & aspirations?

I am excited to continue building on the work that we put in place the last two years. 

I’m looking forward to developing this group of players over the next season. I have seen some great potential in these young players coming through and we have some experienced players to help guide them too. I’m also delighted to have Morgan Codyre and Anto Ryan on board with me this year. They are both eager to get started and will bring some new fresh ideas to the group. 

7. Is internal progression important in the club?

Absolutely, it’s great to see some ex-players coming back to help guide the groups under the senior men’s team from Packie, Clarkie, Hackett with the U20s, Barry Gavin with the U18s, Spencer with the U17s, and John Cass with the U16s. I like to think the future is safe with people who are passionate about the club and care about the players. 

8. Your Proudest Achievement in Wegians?

On the pitch, it would have to be beating Garryowen to win promotion to Division 1A, due to the buzz around the place and what was on the line that day. But if I’m being honest, I would say doing up the gym to what it is now because it benefits everyone. It wasn’t just me but it was a proud moment.

9. Final thoughts?

I just wanted to wish Brownie all the best in his new role. We worked really well together over the 2 seasons, and I know that he will do really well in his new role with Connacht. 

And a final word from our President Erc Dunne:

“I’m delighted for Ja and Galwegians. I have watched his progression through our club from player to coach and as we move towards our Centenary. It’s easy to see why he is where he is now. Ja has grown with the club, he works hard to develop his skills and of those around him, he understands who we are and where we want to be. I want to wish him and the rest of our coaching team every success for the season ahead.  I also want to thank our good friend Andrew Browne for his hard work over the last two seasons and wish him every success in his new role with Connacht”.

Special General Meeting May 27th Outcome

A huge turnout of over 100 members went online last Thursday evening to vote on the motion proposed for the sale of Crowley Park to GMIT.

An overwhelming 99% voted in favour of the deal, which essentially gives us 10 years to find a new grounds which are fit-for-purpose.

Commenting on the outcome which was warmly welcomed within and outside the club, President Erc Dunne said:

“Once again, I want to thank all our members for participating in what is a historic vote for our club. But there is still much work to do. There is an old Irish saying: ‘Giorraíonn beirt bóthar’ – Two shorten the road. Working together and supporting each other, we can overcome the challenges that lie ahead”

Virtual Run – For the love of the Blues

Connacht Rugby and Bank of Ireland have teamed up for a fundraising initiative ‘For The Love of the Club’ from St Patrick’s Day for one week until Mar 24th.

There is great interest across the club in getting behind this fundraising initiative, especially from the players.

Connacht Rugby have made it incredibly simple 2 steps:

  1. Register at www.myrunresults.com
  2. Do a virtual 5K or 10K fundraising walk or run from Mar 17-20th
  3. Record your result at www.myrunresults.com

The entry fee is €10 and all of the money raised will go to Galwegians!

So this is a chance for some much-needed exercise, and to support our beleagured club funds.

There is also a €5K donation by Bank of Ireland to the club who goes the extra mile.

Are you up for helping us with the challenge?

Danno Heaslip RIP

Our club is deeply saddened by the passing on Thursday 4th February of our former Captain, past President and club stalwart Danno Heaslip after a long illness borne with great bravery and dignity.

Due to the current public health restrictions, unfortunately we are unable to be present for the funeral, however Galwegians members and the many friends of Danno can express sympathy with the Heaslip family by leaving a message of condolence online.

Ar dheist Dé go raibh a anam dílis

Reflections on vaccination from our Club Doctor

David Bouchier-Hayes, Club Doctor

Tonight I sit here watching Match of the Day whilst a remarkable process in going on inside my body. This Wednesday I was lucky enough to receive my first dose of the much discussed Pfizer vaccine against Covid-19. This novel vaccine uses well researched mRNA technology adapted to fight this virus. mRNA (or messenger RNA) is a substance found in all cells that transmits instructions for building proteins to specific areas in the cell called ribosomes which are essentially small protein producing factories in each cell. It is a little like having blueprints for a car being delivered to an assembly plant.

The vaccine uses mRNA to make these small assembly plants produce a protein called a ‘spike’ protein, which is a match for the one that is on the outside of the Coronavirus which causes the viral cells to be able to enter our own human cells, with subsequent damage to those cells. The mRNA does not affect my own cells’ DNA, nor does it make the ribosomes produce the actual virus itself. Once these ‘spike’ proteins are produced and multiplied within my body, my own immune system responds by producing antibodies to the ‘spike’ protein. So if I am exposed to coronavirus, these antibodies attack the ‘spike’ protein and render the virus incapable of attacking my cells.

It is a little like nullifying the attacking talents of a good opposition out half. Without this incisive player or protein, the rest of the team or virus becomes useless as an attacking force, simply by taking out this one protein or individual player. So as I write this, my body has been manufacturing this protein inside my own cells, rather than in a laboratory. My immune system is now recognising these spike proteins and attacking them, as it will subsequently attack any coronavirus that has the temerity to enter my body, and completely obliterate this noxious invader.

Thinking in depth about it, the processes involved and the research and human endeavour that underpins them is as close to magic as I think I will ever experience in my lifetime. The scientific community have produced the equivalent of putting a man on the moon, in record time, but with safety being the overwhelming consideration. I feel truly honoured and humbled to have this remarkable process go on inside me, and I can assure you that the actual injection was extremely easy, aided by the professional, dedicated and very upbeat staff at the vaccine centre in GUH, even though it was well after 5 pm, and they had another two or three hours to go.

I didn’t feel the needle go in. I’ve had a slightly sore arm today, but two paracetamol this morning was enough to take care of that. I received the vaccine after a busy day in the operating theatre, but it wasn’t a problem at all. I’ve done a full day’s work today, and took a 45 minute walk with no issues at all. There has been one mild adverse reaction to the vaccine seen in GUH in someone with a history of severe allergy to a previous flu vaccine, and was managed easily and appropriately and I don’t believe even needed to stay in hospital overnight.

So there is an end in sight to this pandemic, and for those of you who are a little nervous about receiving the vaccine, I can only give you my story of a really positive and, to me, an absolutely extraordinary experience. I promise you, if you think that a smart phone or computer is cool technology, to have these processes in your body understood by people at a cellular level and that knowledge being used to empower my own body to manufacture the threatening piece of an invasive and life threatening virus, which then recruits my own immune system to produce something that will destroy this same virus, is truly mesmerising and bordering on the miraculous in my mind. Stay safe and well, everybody. There is an end in sight and with a bit more work and sacrifice, we will ride out this latest (and probably last) severe wave of this life changing virus.

If any member wishes to speak to me directly about this, please contact the main club email and they will put you in contact with me where I will be happy to help.

David Bouchier-Hayes, Club Doctor

MB, BCh, BAO, MD, FRCSI(Urol)

Consultant Urologist and Robotic Surgeon

Associate Professor(Hon.) RCSI

Clinical Fellow (Hon.) NUIG

Stay Vigilant, Stay Smart With COVID

In what is a landmark event (or possibly the landmark event) in the history of public health, the first vaccine against the novel Coronavirus has been administered outside of a trial setting.

The results to date have been extraordinary, and the side effect profile, although heavily reported especially on social media, is quite minimal and the vaccine appears to be very safe. In fact, my own sister who is a research scientist in Texas, is receiving her first dose on Tuesday 15th December, and is very excited.

This vaccine, allied to others that are coming on line, provide us with our best chance of resolving the incredibly difficult challenges that have faced us all, both individually and collectively as a society.

However, there is still a way to go, and in rugby terms, we are probably into the last 10-15 minutes of the match, and we have all seen matches lost, and people injured and hurt, at the very end of games, so we still have to stay vigilant and stay smart about what we do and who we meet over Christmas.

Thus it is with a positive outlook and hope in my heart that I would like to thank all the COVID compliance officers, the coaches, the volunteers and the players for all the hard work and perseverance that they have led exhibited over the last 9 months, which has ensured that our club has stayed safe. Happy Christmas and here’s to a happier New Year.

David Bouchier-Hayes
Club COVID Safety Officer

Return to Rugby for Youth Academy

With the return of underage rugby, we enter a happy phase of reopening of activity in Galwegian’s Rugby Club, and I felt it would be of help to outline some of the steps that parents which parents will have to take to help the club keep the children safe and having fun outside, which is our highest priority.  I highlight a few of the important points here.

1.  Outdoor activity is probably the safest form of social interaction available to all of us at present, as open spaces and wind and fresh, circulating air disperses viral particles away from areas of high concentration as well as anything we have available.  So we believe that the environment that we have in the club will be a very safe area.  Not even the virus likes a blustery day in Galway!

2. If the child has any signs of being unwell, please do not allow them to train.  If there is any doubt, keep them at home.

3.  Each team has at least one COVID Compliance officer per team who will be in attendance at every training session.  Please follow any instructions that they give you or your child.  Their role is to ensure compliance with the IRFU guidelines and to report to myself as Club COVID Safety officer.  They do not have any discretionary powers so please respect any of their instructions, they are volunteers taking on extra responsibilities, and have very little personal leeway in terms of the adhering to safe practices that they are monitoring. 

4.  All participating players of any age have to have a Fitness to Return to Play declaration form filled out EVERY time they come to training.  This should be done via the Clubforce app which all parents should download. In order to utilise this facility, all players of any age will be required to be registered.  This should be completed ON THE DAY OF training, not the day before.  Your team coaches and Compliance Officer will assist you with set up of the app. and registration etc.

5. Travelling in a car together has been shown to be a dangerous environment for virus transmission.  Thus people from separate family ‘bubbles’ or ‘pods’ must NOT travel together in a car to or from training.  Thus car pooling, or giving lifts to your child’s friend should be avoided.

6.  Public transport should also be avoided to get to training.  If there is no alternative, either skip training, or make sure that older children wear a mask in keeping with CIE regulations. 

7.  Please arrive as close to start time of training (no more than 5 minutes before), with the player fully dressed for training.  Please do not congregate together (players or parents) before or after training.  Please leave the ground as soon as possible using the one way system in effect.  Again, do not congregate with other parents after training.  Dressing rooms, showers and the bar will be closed for the foreseeable future.  Please park at least one car space away from each other thus allowing adequate space between parked cars.

8.  Water bottles, bibs, training tops etc. are not to be shared between players.  The players should try and bring their own hand sanitiser, but there should be hand sanitiser available going on and off the pitch.  There is to be no hugging, hand shakes, high fives etc.

9.  One parent per each underage player is allowed to come to training and wait for them.  However, spectators are not allowed, so if you wish to wait in the ground throughout the training session, please stay in your car. This is a challenging time for everyone, but especially young people who are being denied many parts of their young lives, and have been distanced from their friends.  However, if we all work within the guidelines that are laid out, we should be happy kids laughing and exercising in a safe environment as soon as possible.

Please also read the most recent IRFU Return to Play Guidelines. See especially the section on “Guidelines for Club Members”. We advise all parents to read the information carefully.

David Bouchier-Hayes

Galwegians RFC 2020 AGM FAQs

BEFORE THE AGM

Q. Why is the AGM virtual?

A. Since last spring, the committee has been closely monitoring the Govt. COVID-19 public health guidelines, with a view to holding a live AGM if possible. In August, the further tightening of numbers for public gatherings meant that a live event was simply not feasible. Hence the decision to run a virtual event. This is in keeping with the advice of the IRFU to all clubs.

Q. When & how will the AGM happen?

A. It will be held online on the ZOOM platform at 7pm Thursday October 1st 2020.

Q. Who Is Eligible to Attend?

A. All Life Members and paid up Ordinary or Playing members are eligible and encouraged to attend the AGM. As this event is virtual, pre-registration is required by emailing  no later than 5pm, Tuesday 29th September. Entry to the virtual room on the night will strictly be limited to Members who have pre-registered.

Q. Can I Nominate an Individual for Office

A. Any Member wishing to contest election for a seat on the Board shall inform the Director of Administration by emailing  not less than seven clear days prior to the Annual General Meeting of his or her intention to stand for election and the Board position sought. The Member shall obtain from the Director of Administration the prescribed Nomination Form and return it to him by email, including a proposer and seconder together with a signed commitment to contest the election not later than two clear days prior to the Annual General Meeting. Only Members in good standing will be eligible to stand for election and/or propose and/or second a candidate for such an election. A Member may propose himself or herself.

HOW WILL THE MEETING BE RUN

The objective is to simulate a live event in so far as possible through the appropriate use of technology.

Q. How Can A Member Access the Virtual Meeting?

A. The AGM will be held on the ZOOM virtual platform. A private link to access the meeting will be emailed to all registrants on the morning of the AGM.

Q. What is the Quorum?

A. The quorum for an Annual General Meeting is 20. If a quorum has not assembled in the virtual meeting room within 30 minutes of the start time of 7pm, the Director of Administration may in his discretion declare the AGM abandoned.

Q. Is there a max. attendance limit online?

A. No, there is no max. attendance. The ZOOM platform will be able to accommodate as many eligible Members as possible. However please note the registration deadline above.

Q. What will the duration be?

A. While it is hard to predict an actual duration, the expectation is that the AGM should be complete within 90 minutes. To facilitate this, papers will be made available in advance to those registered where possible i.e. agenda, minutes from last year, Directors’ Reports

Q. How will input from attendees be possible at an online AGM?

A. At the start of the meeting, everyone will be asked to observe online etiquette, mute their microphones and switch off their cameras so that the only person visible and audible will be the person speaking. After each Director’s report is given, attendees will be invited by the Chair to indicate whether they want to ask a question or make a comment by switching on their camera and clicking the ‘Raise hand’ function. Attendees will then be invited to speak in the order in which the cameras were switched on. After an attendee has finished their input, they will be asked to mute their microphone and switch off their camera again.

Q. What happens if the same question is asked twice?

A. In the interests of time-keeping and efficiency, we would ask that attendees would try where possible not to repeat questions that have already been asked and answered.

Q. Can online voting be held?

A. Yes. If there is a contest for any position or vote to be held, we can conduct an online vote limited to the registered participants.

Q. Can I vote by proxy?

A. No, voting will be limited to those in attendance.

Q. What if I have further questions on the AGM?

A. Please email  and we will endeavour to answer any queries as best we can. 

Many thanks for your co-operation and we look forward to having a healthy attendance at the AGM.

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